Fun fact: the city of Marathon’s new skate park isn’t just for skaters.
“We’ll learn more about the skate park design features at the upcoming meeting, but the important thing is that it’s designed to be inviting to the whole community,” said Paul Davis, the city’s recreation director.
The public is invited to a design workshop on Monday, Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, hosted by the city of Marathon and the Platform Group, professional skate park designers out of Tampa. The initial design includes a street course, a bowl and a pump track. That means users can replicate the urban skate experience by grinding on “curbs,” dropping into the bowl (which simulates an empty swimming pool) or cruising around the neighborhood that is, in this case, the Marathon Community Park.
“The new design means it can be used by skateboarders, but also inline skaters or people on a scooter,” said Davis. “The park is designed to accommodate novice and skilled athletes.”
Marathon resident and planning commission chair Matt Sexton said he’s particularly pleased with the pump track, a long and gently undulating course.
“The pump track is a feature that is accessible to everyone and can allow the design to flow into previously unused spaces around the existing park,” Sexton said. “I don’t normally skate because I prefer to fall on water over concrete these days, but anyone can grab a longboard and hit a pump track and feel like Tony Hawk for a second. Think of it like surfing asphalt on beginner waves. New skaters, old timers, bikes and scooters can all enjoy this feature and there will be great spectator spaces all around for families and friends.”
Plans call for the existing park to be razed and a new, larger and linear skate park constructed along the front side of the park to be built parallel to Overseas Highway. At the meeting, designers will present a preliminary plan that calls for a 15,000-square-foot street course, a 2,000-square-foot bowl and a 2,300-square-foot pump track. More importantly, the new skate park will be constructed of concrete — a much more durable material.
“That means less maintenance and it will not wear as fast,” Davis said. The existing skate park is slowly being dismantled. Many of the features are past repair and are being removed from service in anticipation of the new build, which city staff hope will be complete by the end of 2023.
The skate park is a public-private partnership. The city has budgeted $300,000 and has applied for a 100% matching grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Another grant for $50,000 is awaiting approval from the Skate Park Project, and the city has promises of pledges from various private foundations.
The Florida Keys Community Center, a nonprofit headed by Sexton, has paid for the initial design. Once the Marathon City Council gives a formal approval of the design, Sexton said he can start fundraising in earnest, which he hopes will finance non-skate features like dedicated pickleball courts and bocce courts.
“What I love about the plan for this park is that we are taking an unused space, and transforming it,” Sexton said of the northern edge of Marathon Community Park.
Sexton also praised the draw for locals and visitors of a high-end skate park. “I’m a big proponent of action sports, and skateboarding is an Olympic endeavor. This park could be a gateway for local kids to a lifelong passion or even a career. And there’s a good possibility that skateboarding tournaments could generate revenue for the city of Marathon from a national, and even international, community.”
The design for the park will be presented by Tito Porrata of Platform Group. Porrata was the lead designer of Miami’s Lot 11 skate park, a renowned $1.8 million facility opened in 2019, and has designed more than 100 municipal parks. The company has had a hand in skate park and event facility designs in Deerfield Beach, Florida and Keystone, Colorado and the principals have combined experience in pro-level skate sports, skate park design and engineering. Platform Group’s sister agency, The Boardr, organizes industry events. Porrata said he’s pumped (pun intended) to create this park.
“Aside from some normal engineering challenges like groundwater, building up while maintaining sight lines, wind tolerances, etc., what makes it different is our process,” said Porrata. “We will work with the local community and stakeholders to reflect the identity of Marathon. This will yield a truly custom destination park that the community can be proud of with a linear street design, a pump track, art and landscaping. The experience with the users and the onlookers will also be great.”
The city of Marathon urges residents to attend the design workshop on Monday, Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.